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Base Advances
Fantasy Strategy Ideas from the Guru

A New Ballgame

March 6, 1998

[This is the first in a series of fantasy baseball strategy essays, specifically focused on the Smallworld Baseball game. I won't be assessing baseball talent or trends - each manager will have to make his or her own judgments. What I will do is suggest strategies to optimize the more technical aspects of the game, with specific emphasis on trading strategies.]

By now, you have probably read through the rules for the upcoming Smallworld baseball game. There are several notable changes from prior Smallworld games which will have significant ramifications on strategy.

First, the game will be formatted similar to Smallworld's fall and winter sports games. That is, each player will generate "Smallworld Points" (SWP) according to a formula. The only score that matters for a Smallworld team is the total SWP for all of its players. Individual categories of stats (hits, RBIs, SB) have no bearing on the game other than their factoring in the SWP system. So, the objective is simple: accumulate the most Smallworld Points. (This format is different from last year's Smallworld baseball, where individual catgories were summed and ranked vs. all other managers.)

The biggest difference from the winter games is the player repricing process. Player prices will only change once per week, rather than every weekday. This will significantly dampen the ability of teams to generate massive trading gains right "off the bat" (pun intended). By limiting the ability to generate gains, it is less likely that teams will be able to accumulate such a large roster value that all of top players are affordable - at least, not until much later in the season. This should result in greater discrimination based upon managers' ability to discern relative value among the lower-tier and middle-tier players, rather than on their ability to harvest quick gains. It is my understanding that this shift in emphasis is intentional, and should produce a better balance between the investment and sports aspects of the game.

By the way, the preceding paragraph assumes that the maximum weekly price change for a player will be $1.5 million, or some similar value. This isn't stated in the rules, but it seems like a reasonable assumption. We'll know for sure about a week into the season, I suspect.

That said, the trading strategies that I articulated for the Hoops game are probably not valid for the baseball game. It will probably be more important to pace your trading over the full course of the season, rather than burn a disproportionate number of trades in the first few weeks. With a full season allotment of 75 trades, a proportionate trading pace over the course of the season would be roughly three trades per week. While many managers will undoubtedly be unable to hold back, that pace of trading should be easier for compulsive managers to adhere to. I suspect there is still good reason to moderately front-end your trades, since there isn't much value to be gained from trades made in the last week(s) of the season, but the "run & gun" style of trading will just not be as productive under this format.

A related side effect of the reduced benefit of accelerated trading is that the initial roster draft will probably have a greater impact. A poorly constructed roster that requires a lot of early adjustments will have to burn a lot of otherwise unproductive trades. Under a daily repricing scenario, it was less costly to quickly trade out of a suboptimal roster, since you at least had the opporutunity to generate some quick gains in the "rebalancing" process.

I also note that Smallworld mentions that, in addition to the net of buys and sells, player prices will change based on "the number of managers who currently own a player." I interpret this to mean that an approach similar to that which I suggested back in early February (see Price Fixing, The Sequel") will be employed. This should help ensure that all players' prices drift toward the "true market price", a highly desirable trait.

Because there is only one "wildcard" position on a roster (i.e., the DH), there are likely to be a lot of internal price tradeoffs within each position. By this, I mean that if a lot of managers dump a certain third basemen all at once, the majority of them will be buying another third baseman in return. This may be important to follow as injuries occur, since there could be a much stonger "inverse injury" impact (when other players' prices increase, since the list of eligible players to buy is shorter). Unless the player being sold plays the same position as the DH, the player bought will have to play that same position. In the fall and winter Smallworld sports, there were fewer positions to pick from, and more designated wildcard spots on a roster, so this "reverse injury" price effect was more widely diffused, and not usually discernable.

Those are my initial reactions to the rule changes. I think they'll produce a better balanced game, with less need for managers to dedicate a lot of attention each day - especially early on - just in order to be competitive. Of course, for those of you who were willing to work the long hours in the early days, you may have lost one of your competitive advantages. So, deal with it. Forewarned is forearmed!


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Hoop Pointers is written by Dave Hall (a.k.a. the Guru), an avid fantasy sports player. He is not an employee of any of the fantasy games discussed within this site, and any opinions expressed are solely his own. Questions or comments are welcome, and should be emailed to Guru<davehall@home.com>.